Expectation: O Come, Emmanuel

Advent is a season of waiting. Unlike God’s people of old, we know we will celebrate the Messiah’s birth on December 25, and we spend about a month preparing our homes and hearts for his arrival. They had to wait. Like all God’s people throughout time, we’re still waiting for the Messiah’s eventual return. We’re a waiting people. Waiting in expectation. Waiting in hope.

Every year I look for that moment when I first feel the Christmas spirit. The thing that moves me, creating a sudden burst of joy in this season. Sometimes it happens in worship, or when the tree is up and lit, or in finding the perfect gift for someone.

Last year my mom’s health had deteriorated to the point that hospice warned the family that we likely had 24-48 hours before she would leave us. She’s still here a year later, but that experience of waiting, and saying goodbye over and over (she was non-verbal and in-and-out of consciousness) from a distance of several states away, obviously colored the season. I had moments of joy, sure—grief makes other emotions poignant—but there was no pervasive joy in the season.

Last night Q17 assumed the role of Joseph in our church’s annual Live Nativity. Over the years, he has been a Roman soldier, a shepherd, an innkeeper, and an animal wrangler. I was giddy with the anticipation of seeing him in such a key role.

And I missed it. I planned to go toward the end of his shift so I could bring him home after. Someone made the decision to end that shift early. I got the call just as I was walking out the door.

He tells me he smiled for every picture except the one his dad took.

I burst into tears. Dramatic, yes, but I have learned to listen to my emotions. These tears were about more than a missed opportunity. I had so looked forward to seeing him in the scene. I had anticipated a half-hour of peaceful joy. Mostly, I had expected that this might be the experience that ushered me into Christmas.

In my disappointment, I couldn’t bear the thought of milling through the crowds (600 people attended over the course of the evening). So I changed into pj’s and stayed home. I’m not a party person, but even if I was, I have no holiday parties or events on my calendar. This was the one Christmas-themed event I planned to attend.

So I will keep waiting for the Christmas spirit to arrive, clinging to hope just like God’s long ago people waited for the Messiah. Emmanuel, God with us, will come.

A baby goat jumped into Mary’s arms.

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